Nebraska to Expand Memorial Stadium- and Just in Time for the Big Ten
BY TODD NEELEY
First the huge win in Manhattan Thursday night on ESPN (more on that later), now this. Nebraska Athletic Director Tom Osborne announced plans to expand Memorial Stadium — or Old Granny as some affectionately call it. Check out this news release from the Nebraska athletic department:
The University of Nebraska Athletic Department submitted two building projects to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents for approval at the Oct. 15 Board Meeting. The Board of Regents will be asked to approve the proposed program statement and $55.5 million budget for improvements to the East Stadium in Memorial Stadium as well as a proposed capital improvement expenditure of $4.75 million for a new baseball and softball indoor practice facility at Haymarket Park. The proposal calls for funding to come from athletic private donations and bond revenues generated from the new seating. No state appropriated funds will be used for either project.
East Stadium Improvements
The Nebraska Athletic Department is proposing an expansion plan for the east side of Memorial Stadium, which will increase Memorial Stadium’s attendance to more than 90,000. The Stadium was last expanded in 2006 when 6,500 seats were added to the stadium’s north end, along with a large HuskerVision screen, Skyline Suites and athletic office space. The stadium currently has 3,600 club seats in West Stadium and 61 suites in the West and North Stadiums. Nebraska has the nation’s longest sellout streak at 307 and last year ranked among the top 10 in average attendance.
Pending approval by the board, NU plans to expand Memorial Stadium by adding approximately 5,000 new seats, which will include between 2,000 and 2,250 new club seats, approximately 400 to 500 seats within approximately 30 new indoor/outdoor suites, and approximately 2,500 to 2,800 new general seats, including additional seating for disabled patrons. Each new seating area would include dedicated restrooms and concessions areas. A new grand lobby, expanded concourse, and additional first-aid areas would also be added. No current East Stadium seats will be removed and no season ticket holders will be required to relocate their seats as part of this project.
The proposed height of the new addition to be constructed above and around the current east balcony will be similar to the West Stadium, completed in 1999. Within the six proposed levels of the new East Stadium building, approximately 40,000 square feet of interior shell space will also be created. Athletics will retain approximately 20,000 of the undeveloped space for future growth, and as part of a unique partnership between athletics and UNL Research, will allocate approximately 20,000 square feet for future office and laboratory space for research at UNL. Athletics has committed $1.5 million to help finish the interior of the academic space while the UNL Office of Research and Economic Development will be responsible for the remaining construction cost of finishing the shell space.
The University of Nebraska–Lincoln has experienced stellar growth in research funding during the past decade, largely due to an increase in interdisciplinary research involving faculty from multiple departments and colleges. Prem S. Paul, vice chancellor for research and economic development, said a new research center is envisioned that will use cutting-edge imaging technologies to better understand foundations of behavior that contribute to health, injury and disease. Participating UNL academic units could include the Colleges of Arts and Sciences and Education and Human Sciences; the Departments of Psychology; Sociology; Political Science; Special Education and Communication Disorders; Anthropology; Mathematics; Biological Systems Engineering; Agricultural Economics; Economics; Management; Child, Youth and Family Studies; and the School of Biological Sciences. “This innovative partnership combines and leverages the university’s strengths in research and athletics. Locating the proposed research center in East Stadium will build new opportunities for collaboration and position our university to take a leading role in developing long-term solutions to improved health and performance,” he said. Details regarding the proposed research facility will be presented to the Board of Regents in the coming year.
Chancellor Harvey Perlman said, “This is another example of where we are leveraging our athletic program and our research efforts to mutual advantage.”
The total projected cost of the East Stadium Improvement Project is $55.5 million. The proposal calls for $40.5 million to come from private donations and the remaining $15 million from bond revenues. Approximately $7 million in new revenue is expected to be generated annually from the new seating. These additional revenues will be used to pay off the bonds.
Athletic Director Tom Osborne said the additional revenue generated by the new suites, club seats and general public seating is needed to keep Nebraska competitive. “We believe now is the right time to build on the success of the Nebraska football program as it transitions to the Big Ten Conference. We need to find ways to generate additional revenue for athletics as well as for the University at large and we see great opportunity to do that with the East Stadium expansion and with our partnership with UNL Research. We believe that adding 5,000 seats will meet our fans’ demands as brought forth in the survey conducted earlier this summer and still preserve the sellout streak.”
With the Board of Regents’ approval, a construction manager and architect would be selected and brought to the board for approval in December and construction could begin in November of 2011 and be complete by the fall of 2013.
Haymarket Park Indoor Practice Facility
NU Athletics is also submitting a proposal to the Board of Regents for approval of a capital improvement expenditure for an indoor practice facility at Haymarket Park to be used by the Husker baseball and softball teams. NEBCO, Nebraska’s public/private partner at Haymarket Park, will be responsible for the construction in accordance with the Haymarket Park agreements, while the athletic department will be responsible for the financing of this $4.75 million project.
The new indoor practice facility will include batting cages, pitching mounds, a turf system suitable for infield practice and a netting system for live hitting. The proposed 22,000 square-foot practice facility would be located at Haymarket Park, east of the Bowlin Softball Stadium and north of the Hawks Baseball Field. Haymarket Park does not currently have indoor batting cages and the Nebraska baseball and softball teams must utilize the indoor practice facility provided within the Hawks Championship Center. The addition of on-site batting facilities will enhance Nebraska’s opportunities to host regional baseball and softball tournaments in accordance with NCAA guidelines.
Understanding that the Board of Regents will not meet to vote on these two proposals until October 15, Osborne met with the media Friday to discuss the financing of both building projects. “No state appropriated funds will be used for either facility,” he said.